New Menu Labeling Regulations By FDA Are A Huge Step In Calorie Awareness

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scaleThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized ruling requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, a ruling that will provide consumers with the information they need to make smart decisions for themselves and their families.

This FDA ruling is the next step in the long-awaited implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s national requirement for all restaurant-type chains of 20 or more establishments to clearly post the calorie information for each standard item on their menus or menu board.

The FDA’s menu labeling initiative is in line with the thinking of Catherine Jones, award-winning cookbook author and chef, and Elaine Trujillo, MS, RDN, nutritionist, who are the authors of The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook. “We believe that providing accurate nutrition information to consumers who are interested in weight management can have a powerful effect on food selection and is a step in the right direction for overall calorie balance,” said Jones and Trujillo.

Calorie information will be required to be posted in restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, offering for sale substantially the same menu items and offering for sale restaurant-type food.

The ruling comes in light of the fact that Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. Making calorie information available will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.

Restaurant-type establishments selling prepared foods for immediate consumption, such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, convenience stores and grocery stores also will be required to comply with these new guidelines. “If we can influence Americans when they are choosing popcorn at the movie theater or a sundae from an ice cream store, we can potentially make great strides in fighting obesity,” says Trujillo.

The posting of calorie information for standard menu items on menus and menu boards will be required, in addition to a succinct statement about suggested daily caloric intake. Other calorie information, such as total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein, will have to be made available on request.

CATHERINE JONES is the award-winning author or coauthor of numerous cookbooks including The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook, Eating for Pregnancy, and Eating for Lower Cholesterol. She is the co-founder of the nonprofit Share Your Calories, an app developer, blogger, and a freelance journalist. ELAINE TRUJILLO, MS, RDN, is a nutritionist who has years of experience promoting nutrition and health and has written numerous scientific journal articles, chapters and textbooks.

Calorie Awareness

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nutritionpanelThe results of recent studies show that calorie labeling might be one of the most effective tools in preventing excess calorie consumption and weight gain. While the updated version of the nutrition label is under reconstruction and being heavily debated, The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook recently launched as the first and only cookbook to include both calories in and calories out values.

Catherine Jones and Elaine Trujillo, MS RDN, authors of The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook (The Experiment), were ahead of the game when they decided to add a “calories out” value to each of the 200 recipes in their book. They give values for the average amount of time men and women need to walk or jog to burn off each dish. A few months following this bold and novel approach to their calorie-focused cookbook, studies emerged showing that calories out do in fact make a difference on how many calories young people consume.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a [study published in the American Journal of Public Health that proves that telling teens how much time it takes to burn off calories through exercise is a persuasive tool to getting them to consume less calories. The study involved black teenagers in Baltimore who consume on average more than twice the recommended daily intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. It measured the sugar, calories, plus the calories out of soda labels. In other words, 250 calories will require walking five miles. “Our results showed that providing information in the form of miles of walking to burn off a 20-ounce bottle of soda or fruit juice had a modest, but significant effect on reducing the number of calories compared with other relative information in the form of minutes of running and teaspoons of sugar.”

This is certainly great news, and here is even more good news involving calorie label information to help college students avoid weight gain. According to a recent study in Obesity, two groups of college students were observed for 36 weeks, with or without calorie-labeling, in a fully-catered eating environment. Calorie-labeling was associated with a 3.5 kg (7.7 pound) less weight gain. The study occurred in two groups of 120 students in two consecutive years. Year 1 had no calorie-labeling and Year 2 had calorie-labeling. The two groups of students did not differ in age, weight, height, BMI, or proportions of smokers and alcohol drinkers.

girljogThe study was conducted in the only university residential hall, located a 20-minute walk from the closest grocery shops or eateries. The menus and meals were identical in Year 1 and Year 2. The calorie-labeling information was provided at the evening meal, the main meal of the day. Calorie-labels were posted prominently at the point of serving, and reinforced by posters in the dining hall. The caloric contents of evening meals varied from 247 to 2,230 calories from starters, main courses, and desserts, plus any side dishes such as vegetables, rice, potatoes, and chips. The study found that in Year 1, when there was no calorie-labeling, there was a weight gain of 3.4 kg. In Year 2, when there was calorie-labeling in place, students lost 0.16 kg, or essentially maintained their weight.

Bottom line: What these two studies point out is the cause-and-effect of calorie labeling on food choices, which seems to resonate with teens and college students. More studies are needed, but for now, these initial findings point to the positive outcomes of calorie labeling, especially in early adulthood, a critical life-cycle period for unwanted weight gain and obesity development.

CATHERINE JONES is the award-winning author or coauthor of numerous cookbooks including The Calories In, Calories Out Cookbook, Eating for Pregnancy, and Eating for Lower Cholesterol. She is the co-founder of the nonprofit Share Your Calories, an app developer, blogger, and a freelance journalist.

ELAINE TRUJILLO, MS, RDN, is a nutritionist who has years of experience promoting nutrition and health and has written numerous scientific journal articles, chapters and textbooks.

5 Ways To Control Calorie Intake At Holiday Parties

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By Helen Agresti

salads1. Be a smarty before you party. When we go all day without eating or skip lunch prior to a party, this usually leads to unhealthy choices throughout the remainder of the day. Make time for a cup of soup, small salad with vegetables and black beans or a few whole grain pita slices with hummus.

2. Choose foods with power! Foods that contain a high content of protein, fiber and water (fish, lean meats, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables) have the highest satiating power. Simple carbohydrates and high fat foods (cookies, cakes, breads, and cheeses) have a lesser effect on our sense of “fullness.”

3. Give yourself 20. Practice good portion control by waiting 20 minutes in between visits to the buffet table. This gives our bodies time to recognize the satiating power of the food we just ingested.

4. Hydrate and deflate. Beer, wine, and sugar-laden drinks are high in calories and have zero nutritional value. Naturally, the more we drink the more we visit the restroom. For every alcoholic beverage, drink one glass of water. Staying hydrated will decrease the likelihood of headaches, fatigue, and feeling bloated the next day.

5. Do yourself a favor and enjoy the flavors. Socialize away from the food. Mindless eating often occurs when we’re engaged in conversion and food is close at hand. Always eat sitting down and enjoy your holiday meal.

~ Healthy and Happy Holiday Eating!

– Helen Agresti is a Registered Dietitian with Professional Nutrition Consulting, LLC. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and 5 children. For more Nutrition advice and healthy recipes follow her on twitter @HelenAgresti and on the web www.pronutritionconsulting.com